We all know that the summer months means taking a risk when ordering or mailing chocolate in hopes that it miraculously survives and doesn’t melt at any point of its journey. So many factors can affect the the chocolate from the time it leaves the seller to when it arrives at the doorstep of the customer. Unfortunately this late spring and summer have resulted in at least three of my packages of chocolate suffering due to the heat and due to USPS not placing my package at the doorstep but rather in the mailbox, which becomes an oven and a poor place to keep the chocolate until I can retrieve it.
I asked on Instagram for input on whether there were ways to somehow resuscitate chocolate that had melted. I got responses to retemper the chocolate from two chocolatiers. But… I’m a blogger, not a chocolate maker nor a chocolatier and I wasn’t sure what I would need to perform such a task. What if I needed to invest in some kind of large equipment to do this? So I turned to William Marx of Wm. Chocolate, who has been very patient and knowledgeable whenever I’ve asked him my chocolate questions. He agreed that my chocolate would need to be retempered, but he mentioned a product I had never heard of before and never knew existed that I could easily use.
What is silk? It’s tempered cocoa butter! What makes it different from untempered cocoa butter is its crystal structure. According to Chocolate Alchemy, the crystal structure is Type V, which is pure and aggressive. A quick Google search says Type V crystals are a form of cubic closest packed (ccp) (or cubic closed packed or cubic close packed) structures where the atoms are packed together as tightly as possible so there is very little space between them. For a visual of what a ccp structure looks like, go here.
Will was very generous in mailing me some of his own silk to try out for retempering bloomed bars! I followed the Chocolate Alchemist’s instructions and watched this video in preparation for what I had to do. I also had to order an infrared thermometer and chocolate molds ahead of time.
These were the items I used for retempering.
Pardon the not-so-neat handwriting. This was the equation and my calculations for determining how much of the silk to use.
Measuring out the silk. Even though I needed 0.7g of silk, apparently the scale I used isn’t the most sensitive. The smallest amount it could weigh was 1g, so… thank goodness silk is pretty forgiving material!
I melted the bloomed bar using a double boiler. I don’t have a melanger.
Using the infrared thermometer, I monitored the temperature of the melted chocolate and waited for it to get to around 94 degrees. Then I added the silk, waited 2 minutes, stirred it again, placed it into the mold and tapped out air bubbles.
I was advised to try putting the chocolate in the fridge for 25 minutes to let it set.
After 25 minutes, the chocolate was still a little soft and the chocolate hadn’t fully pulled away from the mold. So I let it sit for another 25 minutes while checking it a couple of times.
After the second set of 25 minutes, the chocolate had fully pulled away from the mold and the bar easily fell out. There was some marring on the face, however I now have more respect for chocolate makers that can somehow make their bars look shiny and perfect straight out of the mold.
So which bar did I retemper? My mom was very kind to mail me some Pump Street Bakery chocolate. The first shipment arrived fully melted and bloomed. The second shipment thankfully seems to have arrived intact. After retempering, the bar still had a “bready” scent to it. I was worried that it would have absorbed food odors while setting in my fridge. Right out of the fridge, the bar had a nice, sharp snap. Though after sitting at room temperature for a few minutes it became soft. I was able to taste the sea salt, milkiness and crunch on the rye bread bits. I’ll have to compare this experience to when I taste the un-retempered version of this Pump Street bar.
Though the process overall was simple and easy to perform, I did encounter some issues. Even though I have a picture above showing the chocolate reaching 94 degrees before I added the silk, the entire bowl of melted chocolate wasn’t actually 94 degrees. Depending on where I aimed the thermometer, I would get anywhere from 88 to 90 and then finally 94 degrees. It was definitely not consistent. I’m not sure if I needed to boost the heat for the water for my double boiler, but the Chocolate Alchemist was correct in that my chocolate was thicker in consistency when it came time for molding since it probably wasn’t fully at 91 degrees at that specific step.
I think I need a new scale to weigh out the silk. Despite taring the scale and measuring both with and without the small plate, the scale still only read 1g. When I attempted to remove some of the silk to obtain 0.7g, the scale actually started to read a higher weight. I may look into purchasing a new more accurate and sensitive scale for future tempering projects. Usually in the lab (my day job) we have plastic “boats” to weigh chemical powders in, and I don’t have such material in my kitchen, but I might try using parchment paper instead (which I’d also have to get).
I need to explore my options for setting the retempered chocolate. I don’t want it becoming soft after sitting in room temperature in case I wanted to store it in a cabinet and taste it later for the blog. Though Will had another bit of advice in that if tempering was not an option, he would melt down the bloomed bar and taste the melted chocolate. It’s not ideal for determining the original snap of the bar, but you could still technically detect the flavors of the chocolate.
I’m otherwise happy with my first attempt at retempering chocolate and I’m excited to give a try again! I might purposefully force some bars to bloom to practice on 🙂
A big thank you again to Will from Wm. Chocolate for providing the silk, for answering my questions and for being supportive in a blogger attempting to temper! He is based out of Madison, Wisconsin, and if you haven’t tried his chocolate before, I definitely recommend giving it a go. I’ve tried a couple of his bars before and hope to get my hands on more of them in the future when temperatures outside are cool again.